Cape Town - The Absa Cape Epic is taking steps to boost its development rider
category to help nurture future mountain bike champions.
In addition to the teams fielded by the Exxaro MTB Academy, in 2017 the
Exxaro special jersey race for development riders will also include teams
committed from academies in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. The
category is open to historically disadvantaged South Africans under the age of
“The Absa Cape Epic is proud of its record
of encouraging development riders and with this initiative we want to
celebrate our next generation of star riders,” said Absa Cape Epic CEO Lynn
“Five riders who have participated in this category have already gone on
to represent South Africa and we have the opportunity to contribute to
developing up-and-coming South African talent in the build up towards the 2022
Commonwealth Games in Durban,”
Naudé announced on Wednesday that the race had formalised an arrangement
with the Diepsloot MTB Academy in Gauteng, the Change A Life Academy in KwaZulu-Natal and Songo.Info programme from Stellenbosch in the Western Cape and each
would receive two free team entries to the 2017, 2018 and 2019 races.
“The eight-day Cape Epic takes its toll on participants and there are a
limited number of people in this age profile who have the ability to finish the
Cape Epic, so the three organisations have recommended that we start by
extending two entries to each of them,” Naudé said.
“This will increase the
number of teams in this category by 54% over the 2016 figure, but for us it’s
more about approaching this in a sustainable way for young riders who are in
the early stages of their riding careers.”
Another 10 entries have been made available to sponsors, charities or
others who might want to enter a team in this category.
Mellis Walker, a member of the Exxaro MTB Academy steering committee who
also sits on its Board, welcomed the initiative and said it would broaden and
strengthen the competition for the Exxaro jersey.
“Mountain biking is growing in the communities where these programmes
operate and a competitive development category at the Absa Cape Epic will
accelerate the progress of young talent. We are proud that five
riders who have participated in this Exxaro special jersey race have already
gone on to represent South Africa.” said Walker. “We want to build heroes in
these communities and foster a love for the sport among them. Doing so would
also expose a new audience to the Absa Cape Epic and mountain biking
generally,” he added.
Naudé paid tribute to the role of Exxaro, which launched its MTB Academy
in 2011 and has sponsored the green special jersey for this category since
2012: “Exxaro has been central to the introduction of the category and getting
us to this point and we are extremely grateful for all the support over the
years. Its generous contribution has put us in a position where we are ready to
take this step forward.”
Naudé also announced that the Absa Cape Epic would support four
charities for the next three years: the Anna Foundation, Qhubeka, Laureus and
the Cape Leopard Trust.
“We have refined our approach and from 2017 and we will work with
charity partners that are closely aligned with our core business,” she
“There are three areas of focus: first are programmes that use sport
or bicycling to uplift communities; second are those linked to Absa Cape Epic
host towns; and third is environmental conservation, since our sport requires
ongoing interaction with the environment.”
Entries will be reserved for the charities and they can sell or raffle
them. Due to the very limited number of entries to the race, these entries are
highly sought after. Charities will also be given a platform at the event
itself and on the Absa Cape Epic media channels.
“We’ve worked with these charities before, so we are
familiar with their outstanding work and the ethos of each organisation,” said
“With a streamlined charity programme and commitment for the next three
years we’ll be able to dedicate more attention to each
organisation and endeavour to make a meaningful difference to the communities
that are touched by the race.”
She concluded by saying that teams riding for charities of their own
choice was synonymous with the Cape Epic and they had raised over R15.4m since
2011. This would continue as usual.
The Anna Foundation assists disadvantaged schools and communities by providing
academic, social and environmental support and equipping children with skills
for life long learning.
The Cape Leopard Trust, an active predator conservation-working group in the
Cape, uses research as a tool for conservation and helps to find solutions to
human-wildlife conflict. It operates in many of the areas through which the
Cape Epic route runs.
Qhubeka is World Bicycle Relief’s programme in South Africa. World Bicycle
Relief is a global non-profit organisation dedicated to advancing education,
health and economic opportunities by providing simple, sustainable
Laureus is a global sports-based charity that works to improve the lives of
young people. The charity combines Laureus Sport for Good, the Laureus World
Sports Academy and Ambassadors Programme and the Laureus World Sports Awards to
form a unique organisation that uses the inspirational power of sport as a
force for good. Since its inception, Laureus Sport for Good has raised over
€100 million and supported over 150 projects worldwide.
The Exxaro MTB Academy aims to introduce the mountain biking experience to
historically disadvantaged communities and individuals, and ultimately assist
to transform the sport in South Africa. It also aims to use sport and a healthy
lifestyle to improve people’s quality of life and create change in the lives of
The Diepsloot Mountain Bike Academy provides basic MTB and life skills training
for underprivileged youth sourced from schools in Diepsloot. It provides
children with opportunities to participate in recreational and competitive
sporting activities that enhance their sense of self-belief and self-respect.
Beneficiaries have access to educational support, as well as the transfer of
important life skills needed to improve their circumstances.
Seven-time Dusi champion and multisport legend Martin Dreyer launched the
Change a Life Academy in 2008 to train youngsters in KwaZulu Natal’s remote
Dusi Valley to become competitive canoeists. The Academy has since expanded to
include cycling and running and has notched up many outstanding successes. They
are also taught life skills.
* songo.info is a social development
programme in Kayamandi, Stellenbosch, that provides sport and recreational
activities to children, offers them a safe place to play and grow while
establishing values of accountability and responsibility, teaching goal setting
and instilling in children the ability to dream and go out and achieve their